Four-part Venn diagram with jellyfish at the center: strong things, stinging things, vulnerable things, things that glow. A man named Schmidt let seventy-eight varieties of insect sting him because he wanted to know how each burned. Fireflies don’t sting but glow, a different chemical reaction. I never learned the periodic table. Should I regret this? Boys crush fireflies and smear the shine on their bodies; run screaming into the night. You’ll regret this. We glow without reason. I can live without regret as well as anyone. Fifth category: things with exoskeletons. Locate me. Tell me I've heard bones crunch before.
There is orange peel in my closet, drawing fruit flies, not driving away moths. This means malfunction. In my classroom, an orange floats in a bowl full of water. Here, the world. There are gardeners who like orange trees but not oranges. I ask my students why. None say that fruit must be tended to, plucked. One says, burden. Some think rot, but no one will say that what we do not gather prevents more planting. One says, leave them to feed what follows. The last thing they tell me, birth. Out near Jesuit Bend: Navel, fruit, blossom, offshoot, produce.
On the escalator to the food court, glancing at your hungry Tamagotchi pet, you think about which poem to read in front of your sixth grade classmates and that visiting poet who is always sweating. You are scared to read the one where the hands on the clock spiral from the classroom like fighter planes, weaving into an operating room where your mother’s breast is exposed, drawn up with black marker like a runway or an instruction manual of where to cut and leave enough to kill. You find her in line at TCBY and show her your new shoes.
The crocus, which breaks snow in February, tender is its gaze, its face open, its bulb basking in the warm skin of the earth. Teach us this day to throw our selves to the wind, and let us listen for silence as silence listens for us. And let the dog sleep in our bed tonight, and let ice cubes jingle in our coffee tomorrow when we’ve slept through our alarms and there’s no time to wait for it to cool or to sit and read the paper. Some take by giving, and some give by taking, forever and ever. Amen.
Listen: there's dignity in laughter—unmappable, perhaps, unintelligible as bird-calls, whale-song, but, darling, the sun this March inflected my spirit, bent the tone of you and me and the outlook on the motley grid of Manhattan. Today we are kind to ourselves. Men in coveralls, a wink at the lunch counter— somehow self-pity floats away like a scrap. I have license to observe a woman’s open-backed dress and to honor the impossible durability of a spine. Today people on the street wonder, guiltless, and unafraid, if, perhaps, they married the wrong person. It is possible; a temporary lapse in tragedy.
It’s as though I need a girl who knows her current events, catching her peeking over some creased worn copy. We’d be a slow burn, filling in the hours with weather forecasts and Nielsen ratings. Every night over the phone we could run through the obituaries. And maybe on our first night together she could lean in close and whisper something about a recently deposed dictator and I’d laugh and trace outlines of the Balkans on her stomach. Under the covers, I’d finally spill my thoughts on nuclear disarmament, and she’d pull me in like no morning edition ever could.
I had seen his type many times before. He hung out in coffee shops where he ordered bitter lattes with curdled milk. He sat on the edge of the room at a small round table and sipped his overcooked resemblance of a latte while waiting for a familiar face to sit down next to him. It was in his own songs, the ones he wrote between each drag of his cigarette, that he found fulfillment. I listened to them in my head, measuring the choruses against my own ideas of life and happiness, and pulled my overcoat closer.
In the voluminous bureaucratic hallways of aftermath I catalogue wounds (the baby’s back scarred by chains, the homicide-suicides). But last night I ran to the crabapple trees erupting with pink, moving their branches in night wind like tentacles, sensing, perhaps saying something. I stood in the unreal light of their canopy wondering at branches weighed down by flowers. Holy, holy… we find our own divinity. There’s nothing to make, to say, to try to balance. People suffer. And trees give their entirety to blossoms, and spend their petals on darkness while you’re asleep, and they leave no heirlooms.
Who broke for the trees at the first red-and-blue sign of trouble? Who half-suggested, bottle in hand and cops on the trail, that we could just leave you for dead? Who was nuts enough to think that drinking at an abandoned prison was poetic? Who was still giggling at the way you had pronounced "forty" like you were a character from a bad novel? We came looking for you the next morning and there you were in repose underneath the brush. In the car you seemed alright! We saw the heat lightning, counting out one, two, three, four, mile, thunder.
Here are some things to be thankful for: tilapia marinating in ginger and soy, and cabbage and bok choy ready for the knife; warm scones with butter on a weekday afternoon, while watching the Dublin rain pour down; the abundance of museums; the rarity of skunks; high-top sneakers that fit perfectly; the rough pebbly texture of Kona's paws, the velvety fur on her warm chest, the scratchable cavity under her jaw; a postcard, from a long lost friend; the magic of a daily afternoon nap; good pure sea salt; mangoes and maps; the half-seen flash of a fox at night...